Okay, in my defense, did you see what came out over the past month and a half?
The only notable release since my hiatus was Fez. Look, you want to know if you should play Fez or not?
TOTALLY NOT A MINI-REVIEW: FEZ
Don’t play it! Fez is the travelling con man of video games; at the outset it is charming and seems amazing and revolutionary and Very Important, but three days after you’ve handed Phil Fish your money you realize the platforming is awful and the puzzles aren’t “brainy”, they’re just fucking obtuse. This is a shame, as the Mario-on-an-axis gameplay is a good idea; hopefully some talented Japanese dev will take the idea and turn it into a good video game.
You know, one that doesn’t become unplayable after 20 minutes.
There! Done! I just saved you ten dollars. In unrelated news you can access my Steam wishlist here: http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561197967197617/wishlist .
Admittedly I would not have been any great help even if I had written about Fez in Wallet Abuse as I was convinced that thing was going to be a Braid-like reinvention of the genre. Turns out Fez is a floaty platformer that serves as the barest scaffolding for its designer’s annoying pretensions. Who knew?
Oh wait, everyone other than myself and other Fez fans. Nevermind. What else came out during my Spring hiatus?
Fable: Heroes Of course you shouldn't play Fable: Heroes, what the hell is wrong with you?
Sniper: Elite V2: All the fun of a Hitman game, but played from a mile away in a bell tower and if you leave you die. Wait, I think I just sold myself on this game.
Prototype 2: Because you’re still holding a torch for the Infamous/Prototype wars of Spring 2009. Also you’re insane. Don’t play Prototype 2.
Ridge Racer: Unbounded. Because you like Burnout, but have no standards. You’re willing to accept Parkay over butter, VHS over Blu-Ray, Vita over Nomad, and other egregious examples of being willing to settle instead of having Nice Things.
Skullgirls: Possibly legitimately good as a fighting game, but you probagly want to buy it instead because it looks like Phil Foglio: The Portfolio: The Fighting Game. And if that’s the case, just cut out the middleman and buy a Girl Genus trade paperback. This way Phil gets paid, and you maintain your self respect after you realize there’s no good reason to play Skullgirls offline.
Legend of Grimlock Grimrock: If you have even the fleetest of fond memories of Eye of the Beholder, you need to play Legend of Grimrock. This is basically that, but with modernized gameplay elements and just enough of the AD&D-ness stripped out to avoid a lawsuit. There are some unfortunate gameplay elements, such as an over reliance upon timed switch puzzled that call on the sort of twitch-gamer reflexes that simply should not be necessary in a game of this type, but otherwise it is absurdly good for a $15 video game.
Wait, what’s that, you say? Grimrock? Isn’t that a hated Pee-Cee title? What on Earth are you doing talking about Grimrock, Mister Bradshaw?
Well as it turns out one of the things I did during the hiatus was build a reasonably modern PC. Nothing bleeding edge, but something that can play anything released today at medium-to-high settings and is capable of playing anything for the next 3-5 years with minor improvements. I now have access to every new game release exept for Wii and Vita titles, which in no way invalidates my point.
As much as I have identified myself as a “console guy”, as much as I like being a “console guy”, as much as I wanted to remain a “console guy”, I have to say joining the glorious master race of PC gamers feels good.
It feels damned good.
There are a lot of good arguments for ditching the console playground, including not being beholden to tech specs laid out during Dubya’s first administration; a digital release channel not held hostage by regressive digital download policies set forth by Microsoft and not having the growing threat of shoehorned-in waggle support hovering above my library.
The consoles are in a sad state of affairs at the moment-- the hardware is ancient and they’re beholden to retail pipelines that were outdated the moment the first time Half-Life 2 was successfully activated on Steam. And it’s not a situation that looks to be improving soon; by all accounts neither the Xbox 3 nor the Playstation 4 will be present for E3 this year and even if they were to magically appear and be mammoth leaps ahead of current tech, there’s no way Microsoft or Sony will let go of that distribution model. The whole situation is enough to cause one to really wish that the Steam Box were a real thing; a cheap, basic PC That Just Works and is hooked into Steam/Origin/Good Old Games/Battle.net on day one would be just the thing to force Microsoft and Sony into entering the 21st century alongside Nintendo.
God I hate myself for that last sentence. Anyway, on with this (last) week’s games:
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Platforms: Xbox 360 (no, really. A disc.)
Case in point: On Steam, shit like a $40 on-disc shmup wouldn’t have been allowed to happen. I mean sure, Cave would have been free to put Akai Katana or Deathsmiles or Pink Sweets: Ibara Sorekara or whatever godawful thing thing they wanted on Steam, but the moment they tried to charge forty American dollars for the stupid thing, people outside of the shmup community would have immediately taken notice of Cave’s bizarre ability to stay solvent and immediately start throwing pointy objects through their corporate HQ.
And before you think “oh god, it’s a 2d Japanese shmup on disc, I gotta buy it before it shoots up to $400 on ebay”, consider two things. One: the shocking ease at which one may purchase Death Smiles at any given Gamestop; and two: that metric only really works for inherently good videogames, and not the fiftieth fucking bullet hell shmup Cave has managed to release this console generation. I mean, at least hold out for the final wave of 360 JRPGs and get a pillowcase out of the deal.
Developer: Twisted Helix
Platforms: All of Them, None of Which Were Absolutely Necessary
On one hand, you have to feel sorry for Double Helix as apparently Battleship: The Game: The Movie: The Game has a decent heart to it-- well okay, by “decent heart” I mean “they combined Battleship and an FPS”, that was harmed by the cold hard necessities of developing a movie tie-in video game.
On the other hand, these were the same assholes responsible for GI Joe: Rise of Cobra and Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters, so they knew full well what they were getting into when they signed the contract.
On the other other hand, they don’t owe the state of Rhode Island 75 million dollars, so at least they’ll stay in business longer than 38 Studios.
I can fully accept the fact that Diablo III is the finest game one could ever sacrifice your long-term index finger cartilage to. However, after Blizzard’s opening day connectivity fiasco, I have already declared my allegiance to Torchlight II and have no intention of ever playing Diablo III. I can assure you that Torchlight 2 costing 1/3rd the price has absolute--
Yeah okay it’s because Torchlight 2 is twenty bucks. Sure, I’m pro-consumer and think that Blizzard’s continual launch day issues are deplorable, but I’m also cheap, and if you tell me I can get within 90% of a game for a third of the price then yeah, I’m gonna do that.
Game of Thrones
Developer: Cyanide Studios
Publisher: Atlus (No, really!)
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
I hate Cyanide Studios now as they’ve spent seven years mucking up a concept so easy you could get it right using no more than a copy of Skyrim and some modding tools-- a Westros RPG.
Sadly Cyanide fucked up so badly that JRR Martin will probably never trust another game developer with his baby. And that’s a shame, as you could name a half dozen other developers who could have done this concept justice, and in the case of Obsidian, could have kept a competent studio afloat for years to come.
...unless you're headed by Curt Schilling, in which case you'd owe the residents of Rhode Island millions of dollars. Luckily JRR Martin isn't a Boston Red Sox fan.
Max Payne 3
Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Max Payne 3 is hard to get a handle on. Ever since Rockstar conned the collective gaming community into loving LA Noire for approximately a month before we all realized that thing was an awful excuse for a video game, I’ve noticed that the Rockstar brand tends to have a halo effect for game reviewers. Take Red Dead Redemption, for example. Now I loved that game to death, but the middle portion dragged on forever and the actual 3rd person Gears-inspired gameplay was okay at best. That wasn’t a 95% Metacritic score game. The best part of Grand Theft Auto IV was The Lost and the Damned expansion pack, but the main game itself still sits at at 98%, and so on.
So what are we to make of Max Payne 3 and its 87% Metacritic score? Is this the first ever honest score for a Rockstar game, or is this some sort of reviewer course correction for LA Noire? Are reviewers focused too much on MP3 not being a “true” Max Payne game, or has its tangential association with a legendary franchise tempted reviewers to give the game too much nostalgic value? At least in two weeks when the PC version is released most of this should be sorted out.
However, I do have to wonder if this game would have been better off if it weren’t attached to Max Payne at all and was left to stand on its own in the same as Rockstar’s other failed attempts at creating original IP this console generation, Bully and Manhunt. I can understand why Rockstar Vancouver wasn’t allowed to do this-- Rockstar had paid too much money for the Max Payne name and too much time had already been sunk in development of this installment to turn back on the concept-- But if the idea was to create “Man on Fire: The Video Game”, you naturally wonder how much better everyone involved would have been had the studio just been allowed to work on that instead of shoving the Max Payne mythos in wherever they could find room.
If we all just agree not to buy DRAGON’S DOGMA will Capcom take the hint and start work immediately on Strider HD, or will they go out of business first?
RISEN 2: DARK WATERS causes us to question as a society why it’s taken us this long to develop a pirate-themes WRPG
GHOST RECON: FUTURE SOLDIER has no mechs, no orbital ion cannons and no hovering battleships, so how “future” can it be, anyhow?